“I wasn’t just an artist, I was a queer artist”, meet Drag Performer, Alfie Ordinary #ICMyPlace

5 August, 2021

Alfie Ordinary is a multi-talented, award-winning drag performer. He’s the son of a drag queen, which makes him a drag prince. And as a drag prince, Alfie identifies as “one thing, one thing only – and that’s FABULOUS!”

Since his first performance at the Brighton Fringe Festival, Alfie has taken his award-winning show, Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous! down under to Adelaide and across the Atlantic, bringing fabulousness to audiences in the US and Mexico. 

We spoke to Alfie (while feeling exceptionally underdressed) about the creation and development of his one-drag-prince show, why Brighton is such a phenomenal place to be a performer, and the advice he’d give to aspiring drag performers.


How did you get started in drag, and create your first solo show?


During my Master’s degree, I got really into cabaret, queer theatre, performance art and clowning. As part of my dissertation, I looked at the relationship between clowning and drag, and ‘otherness’ within performance. 

I wanted to create a drag character that existed on the fringes of their own community – not necessarily a drag queen or a king – so I created a drag prince. At the time I was learning what it was to be a queer artist, so I made a character that could learn as well, who could say things to the audience like: “I just found out about this thing, it’s called heteronormativity!”

I was genuinely blown away by everything I was learning. Suddenly, everything started to make sense. I wasn’t just an artist, I was a queer artist. It was this, as well as my research into drag and clowning, that formed the basis of the show.

“I was genuinely blown away by everything I was learning. Suddenly, everything started to make sense. I wasn’t just an artist, I was a queer artist.”


I started off doing little cabaret shows, trying out material to see if it worked, with the goal of building a bigger show. When I applied for Brighton Fringe for the first time, I only had 20 minutes of material I was happy with. I had another 40 minutes of the show to write within a few months, and in the lead up, I did two small performances at the Marlborough Theatre – so I just put all the material together and went for it.

During the first show, there was a good four minutes of nothing happening on stage. I’m quite into that sort of postmodern performance – but this wasn’t it. I just couldn’t get into my costume. There was no backstage as such, and I’m pretty sure the audience could see me scuffling around. So, we made a few changes for next time! 

What’s great about performing at Brighton Fringe is that you can apply for any award. In fact, they encourage you to apply for everything, so I did. I spent an afternoon filling in forms, the Director of Brighton Fringe came along, then the judging panel, then I got an email saying I’d been nominated for an award, and then after the second show, I got a call to say I’d won


Brighton is such a queer-friendly, diverse city. What happened when you took the show to new places and performed to new audiences?


There is nothing like doing a show to four people, in a country you’ve never visited, to find out which bits are funny.

It was during my first proper run of the show at Adelaide Fringe that I learned it’s only when you’re doing a show every day that you start to really see what works. Then you can do more of the good bits, and ditch the bad bits that aren’t coming across as well. Like four minutes’ worth of costume changes. 

I’ve been doing the show for six years now. After my first Fringe went well, I did the same thing again the next year, then the next year I got better costumes and everything looked a bit tidier. I had more of an understanding of the context of the show, and I was able to communicate that better too.

Nothing is done the first time. Maybe it is for some people, but I feel like the first show is always going to be a bit rough because you learn so much from the audience. There are moments that will never happen twice because audiences are different.

You also learn a lot from reviews – not just the good ones. Bad reviews are important as well. I remember getting a pretty harsh review, and it made me take a part of the show out because I watched it back and I could see he was right.


Other than the amazing creative hub that is Brighton Fringe, what brought you to Brighton?


I did my Masters at the University of Chichester, which is only 45 minutes away. My tutors had a great relationship with the Marlborough Theatre and other venues around the city, and we were always going backwards and forwards to Brighton to see different shows and perform here.

There are so many different types of performance, art and music here, and all these different scenes that are just there for you to get involved in. I moved here because I was interested in drag, and you’ll find drag every single day of the week in Brighton.


What do you think it is about the city that attracts such diverse creativity?


Brighton’s got an incredible history of celebrating diversity. I mean, we’ve got a big, camp palace built right in the middle of the city! There is a deep affiliation with the arts, people gravitate here from all around because of the nightlife and theatre, and we’ve got the biggest Fringe Festival in England.

“If you want to be part of the community here, you’ve just got to go ahead, say ‘Hi!’, and be part of it.”

It’s incredibly supportive here too. In my first year performing at Brighton Fringe, I couldn’t believe that if you call the office, you speak to the same people every time, and you end up on first name terms with the Director. If you want to be part of the community here, you’ve just got to go ahead, say “Hi!”, and be part of it.


What entrepreneurial skills are important as a performer? 


People always say to me: “It must be so much fun being a drag performer!” 

And I say: “Yes, I send lots of emails and fill out invoices.” 

These are the sorts of things I wasn’t taught at university and had to learn on the job. As I became part of the Brighton community, I had people who could show me what an invoice looked like and give me templates where I could just swap their details for mine. 

That’s why it’s great to meet people that are already doing what you do. You learn from those people and there are so many things we can help each other with. For example, people ask how I find my work and the answer is mostly through social media. 

Usually, someone I know will message me asking if I’m available on a certain date and I say: “Yes, what do you want me to do?” That’s another reason why networking and making connections through communities like the Fringe is so important. 

Brighton Fringe also has a brilliant workshop programme. You can learn about things like Arts Council funding, marketing, and social media. All of this is invaluable for an artist. You can’t learn about writing a show though – I think they hope you can do that already!


Outside of the Fringe, what’s been your favourite gig in Brighton?


It has to be Pride. We have a huge Pride here, and obviously, because of what I do, there are a lot of opportunities there. It’s not just one day with the floats, parties and Kylie Minogue or Britney Spears. Pride starts the Monday before and carries on for a whole week across the city.

Pride is great for showcasing underground talent. At the park, there are lots of smaller stages as well as the main stage with the big acts. I did a show on Queertown stage, which is a converted caravan, with Joe Black and Ginny Lemon who have been on Drag Race UK, and Lorraine Bowen from Britain’s Got Talent. We did about 20 minutes each and it was great fun. 


What would be your advice to aspiring drag performers?


Go and see as many shows as you can. Go to The Queen’s Arms or Legends to watch the local drag queens perform. Go to The Powder Room and see the American queens. Absorb as much as you can when you’re first starting out. It’s important to be informed not just about your own work, but about what else is around.

“Watching other people perform helps you find out who you are.”

And in doing that, you become part of a community. You can get a gig just by going into a bar, watching a show, and talking to the manager about what you do. Then the next week, you could be doing an opening slot for that same drag queen.

Watching other people perform also helps you find out who you are. You watch things, and you think: “I like that, I want to do that, and I want to make it my own.”

I remember watching the kids’ version of Stars In Their Eyes when I was younger and I saw this girl singing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. I’d never seen anything so incredible, and I feel like that might have been the moment I first thought: “I’m going to be a performer!”


If you could describe Brighton in three words, what would they be?


I would say diverse, welcoming, and gorgeous!


Follow Alfie on Instagram: @alfieordinary 

Check out Alfie’s website: alfieordinary.com

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